A new report from the European Environment Agency has highlighted the increasingly severe risks being posed by climate change to European ecosystems, human health, and economies.
According to the new report, Climate change, impacts and vulnerability in Europe 2016, published this week by the Europen Environment Agency, “Europe’s regions are facing rising sea levels and more extreme weather, such as more frequent and more intense heatwaves, flooding, droughts and storms due to climate change.” The report assesses these trends and provides projections on climate change and its likely impact across Europe.
Unsurprisingly, the report also concludes that “better and more flexible adaptation strategies, policies, and measures will be crucial to lessen these impacts.”
“Climate change will continue for many decades to come,” explained Hans Bruyninckx, EEA Executive Director. “The scale of future climate change and its impacts will depend on the effectiveness of implementing our global agreements to cut greenhouse gas emissions, but also ensuring that we have the right adaptation strategies and policies in place to reduce the risks from current and projected climate extremes.”
The report opens with the damning statement that “Climate change is continuing globally and in Europe” and continues with a litany of trends to back up this assertion:
- Land and sea temperatures are increasing
- Precipitation patterns are changing, generally making wet regions in Europe wetter, particularly in winter, and dry regions drier, particularly in summer
- Sea ice extent, glacier volume and snow cover are decreasing
- Sea levels are rising
- Climate-related extremes such as heat waves, heavy precipitation and droughts are increasing in frequency and intensity in many regions
Further, the authors of the report conclude that, “Global climate change has substantially increased the probability of various recent extreme weather and climate events in Europe.” In fact, the key messages from the report are so many and numerous and dire that you really need to investigate them all for yourself — they include the dire warning that “climate change will continue for many decades to come” and that the majority of impacts made by climate change across Europe are “adverse” and are having serious and wide-ranging impacts across ecosystems, economic sectors, and human health and well-being in Europe.
For the more visually oriented, however, the map below shows the observed and projected climate change and the expected impacts for the main biogeographical regions across Europe.
The sheer size does not bode well.
Looking into a few specifics of the three main sectors, the authors of the report determine climate change is impacting — ecosystems, economy, and human health — continues to worsen the impression given by this report.
Climate change — combined with other stressors such as changes in land use — are having seriously adverse effects on ecosystems and protected areas across Europe. Climate change presents a ready threat to the biodiversity at land and in the sea, and many animal and plant species are experiencing changes to their life cycles, and are subsequently migrating northwards and to higher altitudes. Marine species are similarly migrating northwards.
The primary effects of climate change to human health are linked to extreme weather events, changes in the distribution of climate-sensitive diseases, and changes in environmental and social conditions. River and coastal flooding has effected millions over the past few years, while heatwaves have become more frequent and more intense, leading to tens of thousands of premature deaths across Europe.
The economic costs of climate change are similarly high, and account for more than €400 billion worth of economic losses since 1980.
All of this therefore highlights the vital and immediate need for enhancing adaptation and knowledge, so as to be able to mitigate the damage done and also better repair and adapt to the damage.